Tales from a customer who’s implemented SaaS

I recently caught up with a friend who is responsible for one of the larger Salesforce.com  deployments in the southern hemisphere. He had some real pearls of wisdom. I’m a big fan of the Smoothspan SaaS company interviews but this is different. This is distinctly a customer point of view.

His organisation went through an RFP process to select their CRM vendor. The key criteria for hit company was speed to market. The senior exec wanted 1 consistent view of pipeline and then some secondary benefits like contract management and seamless customer views for support and order management. To this end this (like a lot of SaaS) was a business driven technology decision, by passing IT altogether.

I asked him what worked. His answer was fast delivery to the primary business driver. The system was working within 6 weeks with over 1000 uses. His approach at having a dedicated team of experts who had the freedom to iteratively enhance the solution with fast release was fantastic. He also thought that the SF flexibility has provided business improvement options that no-one in the evaluation team really appreciated. So the long term viability and health of going SaaS is well proven.

What didn’t work. . . . The senior exec had the concept that they were buying a ‘web page’ (rightly or wrongly), therefore there was no consideration of cultural change management and no allowance for user training. This has affected user adoption rates and in his opinion limited user depth (they aren’t using many functions and they have limited appreciation for the scope of the solutions potential).

The other key take out was the business led approach significantly annoyed the IT department (there's an understatement). So when it came to integrating SF into other systems they’ve made life very difficult.

His view was that traditional 1.0 IT is very linear. And this is significantly at odds with the iterative, fluid 2.0 approach. This conflict came up several times in our discussion.

His views on why customers are choosing SaaS.

Speed to market as mentioned above in that this is the primary goal.

He also believes that many customers considering SaaS are doing so because of poor data. Potential customers are seeing SaaS as a panacea to cure their data (and by extension) business intelligence woes.

He also thinks that companies going through the process of buying CRM Spend so much linear time on requirements, RFP and data management/ migrations that when it comes to implementation the business demands an outcome in a timeframe that means SaaS is the only option left. Interesting take.

His views on the implementation.

He was amazed that SF didn’t really have a consulting ability or focus. Apparently this is changing but at the time he said that in dealing with SF it became apparent that they were an SME focused business. He literally had to sell them on continuing the consulting engagement past 6 weeks. They also had to provide significant support to the local partner who in his opinion where nothing more than a front for SF themselves.


Going forward he is not looking forward to the prospect of continuing his battle with the internal IT function. Their process driven ‘linear’ approach to enhancement and integration are in his opinion one of the key inhibitors to the future success of the solution and it delivering business benefits. Some of this could be helped by senior exec sponsorship But the largest hurdle is adoption by other senior managers (and them being advocates) and the cultural step change needed in the IT department.


All pretty interesting insights. Anyone else been here and have anything to add?



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